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Politics

Senate Budget Calls For Ending Retiree Health Benefits For New State Employees

Teacher assistants have been a big point of contention between the North Carolina House and Senate as they work on a budget. But another difference came to light this week. The Senate budget would end state-funded health benefits for new state employees when they retire. 

Many states offer health benefits as part of state employees’ pensions when they retire. They cost North Carolina $780 million last year.  The Senate’s budget includes a provision to end state-funded health benefits for state employees hired after January first of next year. Current employees, that includes university employees, government workers and teachers, would still receive those benefits.

Senator Erica Smith-Ingram of North Hampton, a high school teacher herself, says ending those benefits is a bad idea. 

“We did not discuss this on the floor last Wednesday and Thursday and it wasn’t until we peeled back the layers and determined some of these harmful things in the budget that will make it difficult to attract state employees, particularly teachers,” Smith-Ingram said.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger told the News and Observer that Berger calls the provision a prudent way to address the long-term viability of the State Health Plan. 

Chad Aldeman, an executive with the non-profit Bellwether Education organization says a lot of states are starting to have conversations about ending health coverage for state retirees, such as Texas, but none have acted on it yet.